Max Verstappen roars past Lando Norris again in F1 Sprint Qualifying

The roar told the story

Following the checkered flag in SQ3, it looked as if McLaren had locked out the front row. Oscar Piastri put his MCL38 on provisional pole with a banger of a lap, only to see Lando Norris nip him with a thunderous lap of his own.

But on the track, Max Verstappen was looming.

The Dutch driver was screaming around Red Bull Ring, pushing his RB20 to the ultimate edge. And as he cut the line with his own final push lap in SQ3, you did not need to look at the timing boards to see the result.

You just needed to hear the crowd.

The Red Bull-friendly crowd roared to life as Verstappen’s lap rocketed him to the top of the timing sheets, securing yet another pole position for one of the sport’s greatest drivers. The sea of orange in the crowd roared to life, and the orange flares overcame the mass of humanity watching on.

Their hero had done it yet again.

”Everything has been working really well. Good start to the weekend, I’m happy with today,” said Verstappen to Davide Valsecchi trackside.

Asked about the threat Norris could pose, Verstappen was his usual calm, cool, and collected self.

“I mean, we’ll find out tomorrow,” began Verstappen. “I’m not really too stressed about it. I’m gonna enjoy my eventing and we’ll try it again tomorrow.”

And if today’s performance from Verstappen is any indication, he might enjoy his day tomorrow as well.

Here are more winners and losers from F1 Sprint Qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix, as well as the full results:

Winner: Logan Sargeant

Logan Sargeant was eventually eliminated in SQ2 and will start the F1 Sprint Race in P15. In addition, what might have been a lap that put him into SQ3 was deleted due to exceeding track limits. “I didn’t get T1 and T3 right,” admitted Sargeant after SQ2.

But this was still a win for the American driver, who is facing a very uncertain future in the sport.

Sargeant advanced into SQ2, ahead of teammate Alexander Albon. It was the first time in his F1 career that he qualified ahead of Albon, marking a personal achievement for the Williams driver.

This might not be enough to save Sargeant’s spot at Williams, given the speculation about options such as Carlos Sainz Jr. for the team starting in 2025, but this could be a sign that Sargeant is continuing to improve his racecraft. Performances such as this could see Sargeant emerge as an option elsewhere if Williams truly moves in a different direction for 2025 as is expected.

Loser: Daniel Ricciardo

F1 Grand Prix of Austria - Practice & Sprint Qualifying

Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

With the caveat that this is just F1 Sprint Qualifying and the big points are still to come this weekend, if you are Daniel Ricciardo this is not how you want the week to start.

The Austrian Grand Prix began with rumors swirling regarding Ricciardo’s future in the sport, with Dr. Helmut Marko outlining how the command could come from on high to put Liam Lawson into a seat at Visa Cash App RB F1 Team and noted F1 journalist Joe Saward speculating that such a move could happen this summer. That led to Ricciardo himself addressing his uncertain future during media day Thursday, with an acknowledgment that he needed improved performance to solidify his spot at VCARB.

Being eliminated in SQ1 — and seeing Yuki Tsunoda advance into SQ2 — is not the start to the weekend you want if you are Ricciardo.

Again, there is a lot of time left on the track this weekend, and the big points start coming on Saturday with qualifying for the Grand Prix. But Ricciardo needs to step up his game if he is going to keep his spot, something the driver himself admitted on Thursday.

Winners: Alpine

The progress continues over at Alpine.

Yet again both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly advanced into the final segment of qualifying, with both drivers moving into SQ3 on Friday. While both Alpine drivers finished at the back of that group — with Ocon set to start the F1 Sprint Race in P8 and Gasly back in P9 — it is another sign that the team is moving in the right direction.

Sure, you can point to the fact that the only driver they beat in SQ3 was Charles Leclerc, who did not post a time due to a stall on pit lane shortly before the session ended, but you can also point to how close Ocon was to Sergio Pérez on merit. The Red Bull driver posted a 1:06.008 in SQ3, while Ocon posted a 1:06.101.

That is not a large margin at all.

Alpine has been talking about progress for weeks now, starting with their first point of the season at the Miami Grand Prix. But the progress is truly taking shape with their recent results, as they scored double-points finishes in each of the last two weekends. Given where Ocon and Gasly start tomorrow, they have a chance to keep that streak alive.

Something unimaginable when the season began, given how they started the 2024 campaign.

Loser: Charles Leclerc

Generally speaking, you want to put in your best push lap at the absolute end of a session, because the track will have “rubbered in” as much as possible, leading to the best possible time.

That led to an amusing situation during SQ3 as the session began, and the final ten waited in their respective garages. As the clock ticked down, some drivers, such as George Russell, started to get impatient, with Russell saying to his team “we need to get on with it” before the session came to a close.

Eventually the ten drivers lumbered out of the garage, but unfortunately for Charles Leclerc, his SF-24 went through an anti-stall as he rode down pit lane. While Leclerc was able to get his car going again, he could not get his push lap started before the checkered flag flew, and he ended up not posting a time.

That means he will start the F1 Sprint Race down in P10.

Leclerc can still make up some spots on the grid in the F1 Sprint Race itself, and perhaps salvage a result on Saturday. But he will be fighting at the back end of the points to start, and not up front where he wanted to be.

Winners: McLaren

F1 Grand Prix of Austria - Previews

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Following the Monaco Grand Prix, it looked as if the potential fight at the top of the Constructors’ Championship was a two-way fight between Red Bull and Ferrari.

Since then, McLaren has crashed the party.

And then some.

Friday’s F1 Sprint Qualifying session showed again that McLaren has true pace this season, and for a moment it looked as if the front row would be all orange when the F1 Sprint Race began tomorrow. Lando Norris was on provisional pole, with Oscar Piastri right beside him.

As he has done so many times before Max Verstappen answered that challenge, rocketing to the top of the timing sheets, but when the lights go out tomorrow two McLarens will be at the front once more, with a chance to bring home some critical points in that three-way fight.

Furthermore, given where Ferrari finds themselves on the grid for tomorrow’s Sprint Race, McLaren has a chance to pull even closer to the Scuderia in the standings.

Zooming out for a moment, the pace from the MCL38 we have seen today illustrates that yet again, Norris could be primed to challenge Verstappen in the Austrian Grand Prix itself. That story has yet to be told, and tomorrow’s Qualifying session could provide more twists and turns, but McLaren has certainly put themselves in the mix given their recent form, and today’s F1 Sprint Qualifying session is just the latest evidence of that fact.

Losers: Sauber

The tough times roll on for Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.

Both drivers were eliminated in SQ1 on Friday, with Bottas finishing P18 and Zhou at the back of the field, in P20.

Sauber is still seeking their first point of the 2024 F1 season, and given where they are set to start the F1 Sprint Race on Saturday, it seems apparent that the first result will not come in that event.

More worrisome might be the lack of pace they showed in both SQ1 as well as Friday’s only practice session, which saw Zhou in P14 and Bottas in P15. That was not enough to get them into SQ2, and that pace could see them struggle again in qualifying for the Grand Prix itself.

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